Art and Agriculture: Stupas, Rock Cut Architecture and Schools of Sculptural Art

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Art and Architecture

The nature of art in the post-Maurya period was religious. The important feature of art and architecture of this period was the construction of stupas and the development of regional schools of sculpture. The Gandhara school was influenced by Greek-style or art forms.


  • Stupas were hemispherical dome with a central chamber having the relics of Buddha or Buddhist monks. The base of stupa has a path for clockwise circumambulation called pradakshina. Wooden or stone railings enclosed this path. These stupas have sculptures that depict Jataka and Buddhist stories.

  • Three prominent stupas were Bharhut, Sanchi, Amaravati, and Nagarjunkonda (both in the south).

  • Bharhut stupa is famous for its sculpture. The railing of this stupa was made of stone.

Rock Cut Architecture

  • Apart from Stupas, the post-Mauryan period marked progress in rock-cut architecture also. Temples, halls, caves were cut out of sold rocks, particularly under Satavahanas near Pune and Maharashtra.

  • The place of worship generally had a shrine cell with a votive stupa in the centre. This place is known as chaitya. The rock-cut structures used as the residence for monks were known as vihara.

Schools of Sculptural Art

  • The division of Buddhism into two sects, Hinayana and Mahayana, promoted the worship of Buddha in human form. As a result, a large number of Buddha image was built.

  • Major schools of art developed in this period were: Gandhara school of art, Amravati school of art, and Mathura school of art.

Mathura School of art: The first image of Buddha was carved in this art form. This school artist used red stone with black spot to make the image. This school made Buddhist as well as Jaina images besides ayagapatas or stone slab to place objects of worship. The school also produced Brahmanical sculptures, including Karthikeya, Vishnu, and Kubera.

Gandhara School: This art form is also known as Graeco-Roman, Indo-Greek, or Graeco-Buddhist. It was an amalgamation of the Roman, Greek, and Indian art form. Major patrons of this school were Shakas and Kushanas.

  • This school used blue-grey schist for making idols of Buddha and Bodhisattva.

  • Major feature of the school is the portray of human figures with masculine bodies. Buddha is depicted with garment draped in Greaco- Roman fashion and with curly hair.

Amravati School of Art: The art was flourished around 150 BC and 350 AD. The sculptures were found on railings, plinths, and other parts of the stupa. Mostly Buddhist stories were depicted.

  • ‘Narrative art’ is the major feature of this school. They used white marble kike stone. Human figures were prominent rather than nature.

  • Major patrons of this art form were SAtavahanas and Ikshavaku rulers.

Summary of the three schools:

1. Mathura School of art

  • The first image of Buddha was carved

  • Used red stone with a black spot to make the image.

  • The school also produced Brahmanical sculptures

2. Gandhara School of art

It was amalgamation the Roman, Greek and Indian art form

  • Used blue-grey schist for making idols

  • Portray human figures with a masculine body

  • Garment draped in Greaco- Roman fashion

  • Curly hair

  • Shakas and Kushanas patronised.

3. Amravati School of art

  • Satavahanas and Ikshavakus patronised

  • Found on the railing of Stupa

  • Narrative art forms

  • Used white marble-like stone

  • The predominance of human figures

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